Writer’s Block: Needing to be Clever

I want to share an embarrassing story from my life because it’s a good illustration about how the philosophy of freewriting changed everything for me.

When I was young, I was shy and reserved. Quiet. Withdrawn. I was richly imaginative, but I didn’t know how to relate with other people. I never took the initiative, never reached out, never took the lead. When someone asked me a question, I would find it hard to look them in the eyes. I would mumble and mutter and hope that I would be uninteresting enough so that the conversation would soon be over.

And when I really did want to connect with someone, I tried to overcompensate for my lack of confidence by using my intellect in a really overbearing way. I believed that maybe if I said things really astutely, then I wouldn’t have to feel nervous. If I gave them the right answer, I could feel OK about myself.

All my cleverness made socializing more awkward.

I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. The success and popularity of the people around me didn’t depend on their intellectual sophistication, and yet I was convinced that I needed to appear smart and say clever things. I mean, people talked that way in the books I was reading!

As a kid, I remember one autumn afternoon I was out in the front yard with a neighbor. We were done playing and had begun talking about our weekend plans. When my turn came to speak, I felt self-conscious, and I believed it would help my nervousness if I spoke in a really official way.

I said I was going to do such-and-such at my “grandmother’s and grandfather’s house.”

He looked at me like I was an alien. “Grandmother and grandfather?” This kid didn’t use formal diction. He didn’t even read. To him, shorthand and nicknames were as real as any official title. He called his grandma “Meemaw.”

I wanted to relate with people. But I didn’t want to risk being wrong.

After years of trying this and not getting anywhere, I finally learned that it’s not actually complicated to just meet someone and say hello. Once I reached out and got something started, momentum took over and before I know it, I was in the flow of conversation.

With the onset of puberty, I finally learned that if I was willing to put myself out there and risk being wrong, life became a lot more interesting.

I still had struggles with the kind of writing I was doing. I didn’t feel confident enough to risk simplicity. I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I insisted on doing it the hard way.

Never underestimate the human ability to resist positive growth! Click To Tweet

When I sat down to write a poem or essay or story, I sat and mulled over every phrase.

The main block I faced was stopping myself because I insisted on getting everything perfect the first time. I wanted to be clever instead of direct and in the flow. My writing process was overbearing. I wanted to draw attention to how clever I was, even though that kind of writing can be exhausting to read. It isn’t as rewarding as good clear direct prose.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could write now that I quit this habit in my childhood years? Well, I didn’t. I kept it up!

I have years of experience with that write-and-stop method and I can say for certain that it did very little for me. In a very short time after taking up freewriting, my writing improved by leaps and bounds.

The fact that I was able to engage the flow so directly had a positive effect on other areas of my life, too. I had greater access to the depths within me, and I had in my hands a method for expressing from those depths.

No longer was my writing about what I knew. What mattered was who I truly was. I felt more in touch with myself — and more accountable. Freewriting gave me the freedom and full license to express myself however I felt called to in the moment.

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